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Liquid crystals (LCs) have tremendous applications in industry fields such as LCs display, LCs thermometer and polymers. In this paper, different types of LCs with its unique property will be introduced. The theory of birefringence and working mechanism of polarized optical microscope (POM) are demonstrated. We also illustrate the methods for analyzing LCs by using polarized optical microscope.


Liquid crystal phases

Liquid crystals are a state of matter that has the properties between solid crystal and common liquid. There are basically three different types of liquid crystal phases:

  • Thermotropic liquid crystal phases are dependent on temperature.
  • Lyotropic liquid crystal phases are dependent on temperature and the concentration of LCs in the solvent.
  • Metallotropic LCs are composed of organic and inorganic molecules, and the phase transition not only depend on temperature and concentration, but also depend on the ratio between organic and inorganic molecules.

Thermotropic LCs are the most widely used one, which can be divided into five categories:

  • Nematic phase in which rod-shaped molecules have no positional order, but they self-align to have long-range directional order with their long axes roughly parallel ( [link] a).
  • Smactic phase where the molecules are positionally ordered along one direction in well-defined layers oriented either along the layer normal (smectic A) or tilted away from the layer normal (smectic C), see [link] b).
  • Chiral phase which exhibits a twisting of the molecules perpendicular to the director, with the molecular axis parallel to the director ( [link] c).
  • Blue phase having a regular three-dimensional cubic structure of defects with lattice periods of several hundred nanometers, and thus they exhibit selective Bragg reflections in the wavelength range of light ( [link] ).
  • Discotic phase in which disk-shaped LC molecules can orient themselves in a layer-like fashion ( [link] ).
Schematic representations of (a) a nematic LC phase, (b) smactic LC phases oriented along (left) and away (right) from the normal of the layer, and (c) a chiral LC phase.
A schematic representation of the ordered structure of a blue LC phase.
Schematic representations of (a) a discotic nematic LC phase and (b) a discotic columnar LC phase.

Thermotropic LCs are very sensitive to temperature. If the temperature is too high, thermal motion will destroy the ordering of LCs, and push it into a liquid phase. If the temperature is too low, thermal motion is hard to perform, so the material will become crystal phase.

The existence of liquid crystal phase can be detected by using polarized optical microscopy, since liquid crystal phase exhibits its unique texture under microscopy. The contrasting areas in the texture correspond to domains where LCs are oriented towards different directions.

Polarized optical microscopy

Polarized optical microscopy is typically used to detect the existence of liquid crystal phases in a solution. The principle of this is corresponding to the polarization of light. A polarizer is a filter that only permits the light oriented in a specific direction with its polarizing direction to pass through. There are two polarizers in a polarizing optical microscope (POM) ( [link] ) and they are designed to be oriented at right angle to each other, which is termed as cross polar. The fundamental of cross polar is illustrated in [link] , the polarizing direction of the first polarizer is oriented vertically to the incident beam, so only the waves with vertical direction can pass through it. The passed wave is subsequently blocked by the second polarizer, since this polarizer is oriented horizontally to the incident wave.

Questions & Answers

anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
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Akash Reply
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s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
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I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
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